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Old 14-06-2017, 04:40 PM   #1
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Techniques and Effects for Modifying Sound for Use in Ambient/Sound Design

Hello all,

This is my very first post and I just registered minutes ago. I've been looking all over for like-minded people and it looks like this is one of the only places I've found. I'm excited to join the community.

With all that said, I would like to gather and make a list that's hopefully good enough to sticky. The list I'd like to create is regarding what techniques many of you use to take samples and modify them into something useful for Ambient music or sound design. By modify, I mean it could be modified either beyond recognition or simply modified into something that sounds good and useful.

So, let's list your techniques AND how you perform that technique. I'll start off with a basic few:

REVERB - This one is obvious and there are a ton of plug ins available. There are also different kinds of reverb, convolution reverb for instance. The plugins I've found most useful are Aether (for realistic, high-quality reverb), Altiverb (a good convolution reverb), Ambience (a good free-verb), and I personally love Valhalla's Shimmer (great for that BIG reverb sound).

I usually only use reverb when I feel I need to, as the practice of slapping reverb on everything I feel becomes overbearing. But a good pad or piano-type sound or even a spacious drone can use reverb to great effect.

DELAY: I think everyone knows what delay does and how it works. Just find a plugin that works for you. It could be the generic one that comes with your audio editing software (AES, for discussion purposes) or DAW and that should work fine. I use Wave's Manny Delay, which produces interesting delay sounds.

CHORUS/FLANGER - These are simple effects included as plugins with most DAWs and some AES. I've used it before and it's a useful tool in the box, but I'm not sure how to explain it.

CHANGING SPEED - This is often available in AES (I use Audacity) and in some DAWs. It does what it says it does and can be good for slowing down your sounds. I employ this technique as you could imagine, simply slowing my sound down.

CHANGING TEMPO - This effect is available in probably all AESs and DAWs, however I should note that the one in Audacity is especially unique to what I've seen. It does a high quality tempo change while optionally maintaining the pitch. The only issue I've had is that it sometime induces unwanted audio artifacts, but not always. This effect creates really interesting slowed down sounds.

CHANGING PITCH - This can work especially well to make a sound lower or higher, which can produce an interesting effect. Incuded on all DAWs/AESs.

TIME STRETCHING - Based on my research there are different types of time stretching. There's the basic time stretching algorithm found in AESs/DAWs, but in the professional sound design and academic world there is phase vocoder time stretching and time domain harmonic scaling (TDHS). As far as software that will do this kind of complex and high quality time stretching, I've only found that Time Factory II (Google it) does this sort of stretching, but it's very expensive. Another interesting time stretch that many of you may know about is paulstretch, which is available for free as stand alone software (complex) or used very simply as a plugin included with Audacity. Paulstretch can do extreme time stretching and can create beautiful drones and soundscapes, however, if you use it enough, you'll notice it has a very paulstretch-y sound that's recognizable. There are other plugins, I'm sure, and I'd like to know what other people have used, especially for more extreme time stretching, as I find this of great interest.

CONVOLUTION - This technique is an effect that uses what is called Impulse Responses (IRs), which is basically another sound, and it takes your audio and convolves it with an IR sound to create either a realistic reverb sound (such as with Altiverb) or if a non-reverb IR is used, such as any WAV file, it will create very strange sounds, completely mangling your audio. This can be used to interesting effect, but shouldn't be overused in my opinion, as it gets tiresome sounding. A free convolution plugin would be SIR (Google it, and SIR2 is not free). Reaper also has a free EQ called Reafir that not only does EQ, but allows left and right channel convolution (free also). There are others as well.

DISTORTION - I don't really use this and it's better for instruments like guitar and bass or drum beats. But it does have some interesting effects with the right synth sound. Plugins are widely available, but I don't have one to recommend since I don't use it much.

MORPHING/SPECTRAL MORPHING - I just discovered this one. It produces a strange and potentially annoying sound, but sometimes it's interesting. Perhaps I just haven't used the right plugin. I use Waves' Morphoder. Also suggested, has been another type of morphing called spectral morphing. Some of these plugins include Zynaptiq Morph and Melda Morph, which apparently work especially well with modulation.

SPECTRAL SHIFTING - This was suggested for something to produce interesting sound designs. I'm not sure how it works, but plugins include Zynaptiq Wormhole, Melda Transform, and Grm Tools.

IMAGE BASED SPECTRAL EDITORS/SYNTHS - Another user has recommended this technique, as it produces a variety of effects. Plugins include PhotoSounder ("made for the export and import of images, so it basically also transforms your image editor into a sound editor") and iZoptope's RX6.

GRANULAR SYNTHESIS - This, according to many, is the latest and greatest technique for making interesting sounds out of samples. There is a great article by Sound on Sound explaining how it works (Google "granular synthesis sound on sound", because I can't post links). Some of the top plugins include Steinberg's Padshop Pro (really top notch), Ambient (very cheap, but very good), Moodal, The Mangle. Others include Native Instruments' Form, and also Flesh. UPDATE: Soundmorph's Dust is amazing. I use it now. I recommend it. It's very versatile and great for live stuff too. Also, for a free granular synth, try Monolake's Granulator II.

HARDWARE SYNTHS - Plenty of hardware synths are geared towards ambient music. One user recommended the Moog Voyager and the Strymon BigSky (I think he was recommending hardware synths here, but I did not look it up; in any case, this category still holds true). Please feel free to recommend other synths that work well for ambient music.

Well, that's all I have for now. I hope the response to add to this list is enthusiastic. I'll keep updating it as I come across more. Thanks to everyone's contributions!


Last edited by ambtconnoisseur; 22-06-2017 at 04:31 PM..


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